SAME DIFFERENCE. NOT.
Mothers-in-law are here for a reason. My friend quotes Ogden Nash at me, “God in his wisdom made the fly and then forgot to tell us why!” But surely the reason is obvious; you see it every morning next to you when you wake up. Yep, the mother-in-law is the woman who gave birth to your beloved husband. You will probably never understand her, and you’ll never get used to her loud derogatory remarks or to her grudging praise or to her weird comments on anything and anybody. Why huff and puff and steam then? You cannot change her, nor can she change you. Just think, you may seem as weird to her as she seems to you! After all, you are the woman who took away her beloved son. In an ideal world, he always takes your side, not hers. Here is a simple trick I taught myself through the years: when I finally understand that I cannot change the person with whom I have to maintain contact, I step aside and try to figure out what I can change in myself, in my attitude so that I don’t over-react. Sometimes all it takes is the ability to listen and to keep silent. You don’t need to prove anything; you don’t agree, you dislike a suggestion, it’s OK. Listen politely, keep silent, then go ahead and do what you think is best for your family. BTW you don’t have to report to anyone either. Your home, your rules.
When you have children, the mothers-in-law become grandmothers. They love their grandchildren and may show it in various ways. They have the right to see them, to express their opinions, to make suggestions about their upbringing. Sometimes their comments are way off the chart. “They are too tall! Too short! Too thin! Too fat!” and so on. Teenagers react to any comment and cringe in advance. I still remember how my paternal grandmother announced loudly, “Here comes my extremely tall daughter-in-law with her super-tall children!” At the age of 13, it seemed to me like everybody present stared at me and smirked. I couldn’t eat or drink or say anything throughout that birthday party. That was when my very wise mother explained to me that though grandmother was prone to over-stress our not-so-great height, she only did it because she was quite short herself. Mom also said that grandma loved us and didn’t mean much by her remarks. And then my mother gave me this valuable advice: step aside and see what you can change in yourself. Like, be prepared and try not to over-react. It helped immensely that our maternal grandma, our real Granny who was as tall as our mother, never commented on our height or weight. Generally it seems to me that only the very short women would talk loudly of people being “too big”.
Our kids imbibe both sides even before they can understand what is being said. And so when they become fully adult, like 14-15, they may demonstrate various traits. What, how can it be that my own child sometimes sounds like my mother-in-law?! Simple: they are related. Truth be told, at times my own children remind me of both grandmothers as well as of grandfathers. It only seems that as we parents are the ones who brought them into this world and brought them up they should resemble us the most. As they grow they pick up and develop unconsciously the many various hereditary peculiarities. It is both nature and nurture working together to create a new human being who is recognizable and yet completely different from all of us relatives.
The holiday season is upon us, and we think of gifts and pleasant surprises, of simple acts of kindness, of meeting our nearest and dearest. I believe in Love and Kindness, Patience and Tolerance. Yesterday a couple women doing some survey stopped me in the street with this odd question, “Do you believe there are more good or bad people in the world?” My reply came automatically: “Good”. I think if we can do good deeds for strangers, like contribute to charities or help out a needy neighbor, we can certainly be kind to our own family members. Disagreements occur. But see, we are the ones in the middle. We make our own parents’ and old relations’ life easier in spite of whatever they do and say. We also try to make our kids’ life better by listening and helping when needed – and keeping silent when they disagree with us. No, we don’t need to argue with them. Here’s a bonus: they will eventually grow up and with luck acquire the same understanding of life as we had.